Quentin: First off, let me say, WELCOME TO SPRING BREAK!
Jason: Which means SXSW is only days away.
Jake: The Film and Interactive festivals start today.
Jason: I heard Justin Timberlake is in town.
Quentin: I heard everybody is in town. For the next ten days, Austin will be the center of the pop culture universe. To kick things off, we went to see Oz: The Great and Powerful today after school. Overall impressions?
Jake: You want to go first?
Jason: No, you go ahead.
Jake: I haven’t read the books, but I know they cover a lot of story.
Jason: There are fourteen Oz books in all.
Quentin: Cha-ching. I smell a franchise.
Jake: But we’ve all seen the 1939 movie with Judy Garland, and the mythology of that is ubiquitous. “Click your heels three times” is a pop cultural touchstone.
Jason: “Follow the yellow brick road.”
Quentin: “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Jake: You get the picture. There are certain American mythologies that, when you interface with them, yield an almost involuntary emotional reaction.
Quentin: Like Superman.
Jason: Or Star Wars.
Jake: Yes. When you tell a story that taps into one of these mythologies, the storyteller is guaranteed a certain level of success.
Quentin: Guaranteed is a strong word.
Jake: I stand by it. And I said “a certain level of success.”
Jason: So you’re saying we’re preconditioned to get a thrill out of seeing the Emerald City?
Jake: Yes. Or the Munchkins. Or Glinda floating inside a bubble. These images are hardwired to pleasure nodes in our brains. I haven’t read any reviews, but I can imagine some of them are brutal, which we’ll get to in a moment. Personally, I found it utterly bewildering and yet deeply satisfying.
Jason: The way Cap’n Crunch is satisfying.
Quentin: I see your point. It’s tasty, but void of cinematic calories.
Jake: Did I think it was a good movie? Not particularly. It was mired in inertia.
Quentin: I took a short nap in the middle.
Jason: But did I have an emotional reaction? Absolutely. The themes of self-realization, of believing in the impossible, of personal discovery—family and friendship—these are American themes that put a lump in my throat. I liked it.
Jason: Its only power was its connection to the original. That’s not enough.
Quentin: It’s essentially a road movie.
Jason: No question, which means it rises and falls on the strength of the characters. And that’s where the movie first falters. Instead of the Scarecrow and Tin Man, we get a flying monkey and a china doll.
Quentin: I didn’t even realize the monkey was Zach Braff until the credits.
Jake: Dude, you’re kidding, right?
Quentin: Nope. It went right over my head.
Jason: I had huge problems with the contemporary banter.
Jake: I admit, there was a lot of nonsense going on.
Jason: I think it was the product of having two screenwriters.
Quentin: One of them thought he was writing the fourteenth sequel to Die Hard. I couldn’t get past it. One minute that little china doll girl was acting like she’s from the Island of Misfit Toys, and the next she’s all piss and vinegar and let's kick some ass. I’m going to go out a limb here and say this has become the biggest problem with American movies. They are pieced together by opposing creative visions, trying like hell to appeal to the widest possible demographic.
Jake: And this is Sam Raimi. His Spider-Man redefined comic book movies for a generation.
Quentin: Come on, dude. Don’t you think Nolan owns that? The second and third of Raimi’s Spider-Man really sucked.
Jake: Doesn’t matter. The upside-down kiss is iconic. More so than any image from The Dark Knight.
Quentin: You’re nuts.
Jake: Name one, then.
Quentin: “Why so serious?”
Jake: That’s the Joker. Name a Batman moment.
Quentin: I can’t off the top of my head. Let me do a search.
Jake: No fair. Look, all I’m saying is that Raimi’s no hack.
Jason: I don’t know about that. Don’t forget he also directed For Love of the Game.
Quentin: What a cheese fest.
Jake: He knows how to tell a story. You guys are so hard-assed sometimes.
Quentin: I’m sorry. This movie looked like it was directed by the Disney marketing department. There were only a few moments when I felt a creative force at the helm.
Jake: You had to love when he entered Oz.
Quentin: Yes, I did. I admit it. That alone is reason to see it in the theater.
Jason: Don’t spoil it.
Quentin: I won’t. What was your take, Jason?
Jason: I’m not really a hard ass. I thought it suffered from a split focus. The witches were a problem for me. Their powers and limits were poorly defined. The musical Wicked did the whole backstory thing better, how the Witch of the West became a green-faced, black-wearing bitch on a broomstick. I was disappointed this version didn’t set up the ruby slippers. And I thought it should have ended with Dorothy dropping the house. I won’t even mention how much I hated the Harry Potter-style battles at the end.
Quentin: They were just stupid. Bolts of lightning flying out of people’s fingers and characters waving around sticks. Really?
Jason: Poor Michelle Williams. She looked pinched through most of this. Travis loves her, though. Every time we see her in a movie he calls her Jen Lindley.
Jake: Three time Oscar nominee. She had to be screaming at her agent.
Quentin: We haven’t talked about Franco.
Jason: He was fine.
Jake: No objection. His persona off screen is bigger than the one onscreen. That’s a problem for him as an actor.
Jason: I agree. He reminds me a little of Renner in Hansel & Gretel. He’s not sure how he got there, but he’s determined to make the best of it.
Quentin: I thought he was having fun. There is a lot of silliness in the script, and he embraced it better than Michelle Williams did.
Jake: What did you think of the 3D trailer for Gatsby?
Quentin: It looked like a pop-up book. Is the whole movie going to be like that?
Jake: I don’t know. If it is, the regular version and the 3D version will be two different movies visually. I don’t know how I feel about it yet. I have to read the book again.
Quentin: Final recommendation?
Jake: I say it’s worth seeing in the theater.
Jason: I say wait and rent it.
Quentin: I’m torn. Visually, there's that one moment that only pays off on the big screen. I say, if you've got nothing else to do this weekend, go for it. You could do much worse.
Jason: Now we are off to a party.
Quentin: If we see JT, we’ll snap a picture and post it on Twitter. Next week, we have two special guests who will be in town visiting for SXSW.
Jake: Are Colin and David joining us?
Jason: Yep. I talked to Colin this morning. They’re coming in on Thursday.
Quentin: You heard it here first, folks. Spread the word if you want to find out what those two crazy kids have been up to lately. Until then, school is officially in recess. Let spring break commence.